It’s typically more convincing to use analytical or evidence-based appeals than descriptions of personal impact.
It has become common advice for businesspeople to use “I statements” — such as, “I feel frustrated that you missed the budget deadline twice” — as a way to raise challenging conversations without causing colleagues to feel blamed or under attack. But in most cases, I statements are more likely to undercut your argument than to strengthen it. Here are three reasons why.
1. They can be seen as expressions of emotionalism, particularly when they are used by women. I statements can damage your credibility if others believe your feelings have been hurt, rather than recognizing that you are concerned about potential harm to the business. A solid case complete with specific examples, trends and likely outcomes can be significantly more effective, if you let the numbers do the talking for you.
2. They can appear to be about what’s best for you personally. If the emotional appeal of an I statement doesn’t succeed, others may feel you are only doing what’s easiest for you.
3. They can put you at risk of appearing weak. This is particularly a concern because leaders tend to be less empathetic the higher in the organization they go, and are more likely to be interested in what you can accomplish than sympathetic about the challenges you’re facing.
Many decision-makers are uncomfortable with emotional content, and can react badly if they feel they’re being embroiled in drama or are being emotionally blackmailed. It’s typically more convincing to use analytical or evidence-based appeals than descriptions of personal impact.
Liz Kislik helps organizations solve their thorniest problems. She has taught at New York University and Hofstra University.